The race is done, and that means it's time for Power Rankings. Each week throughout the season, we'll size up who's rising and who's falling, based on current standings, behind-the-scenes changes, expected staying power, recent history and general gut feelings. It is not scientific, nor is it meant to be. And remember, whoever your favorite driver is, we're biased against him and like someone else better. We continue with a guy who likes his perch...
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Well, here we are. Junior got his win. And, yes, the sun still rose in the east on Monday morning. Will this solve all of NASCAR's woes? Of course not. But it does mean we'll have to come up with a new storyline each week. Too bad. We'll miss you, "Can Junior win this week?" article. Last week: 3.
2. Matt Kenseth: Get this: Kenseth has eight top-5s and 11 top-10s in 15 races. He's also placed in the top 10 in 10 of the last 11 races. (That 11th? He placed 11th. Symmetry!) In other words, Kenseth is doing exactly what Carl Edwards did last year with a consistent run of finishes. But did he learn that one win isn't enough? Last week: 2.
3. Jimmie Johnson: You know that Junior Nation was absolutely terrified at the thought of Jimmie Johnson coming from behind Earnhardt as the laps wound down. Sure, Jimmie is as sentimental as anyone, but would he lay back just to let Junior win? We'll never know, fortunately for the 88 crowd. Last week: 1.
4. Greg Biffle: Another strong outing from the Biff, who was one of the faster cars all week at Michigan. The guy is serious, folks, and we're ready to declare him a legit championship contender. Which means he'll now go on a run of five straight 30th-place finishes. Sorry, man. Last week: 5.
5. Tony Stewart: Tony, we know your kneejerk reaction is to disagree with whatever the prevailing narrative is, but did you really need to grump about Junior winning a race with your "it isn't a national holiday" line? (Plus, it actually was a national holiday. Father's Day.) Anyway, ease up. It's good news for everybody. Last week: 7.
6. Kevin Harvick: Another good weekend for Harvick, the automotive if not literal heir to Dale Earnhardt Sr. Which allows me to vent about the goofiest element of Junior's win: the whole "he won on Father's Day in a black car" nonsense, like that was supposed to mean something. Look, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm fairly sure that almost all the other NASCAR drivers have fathers, too. And how can Junior outrun his father's shadow if everyone keeps draping it over him?. Last week: 8.
7.: Hey, guess who's now got the most famous super-long losing streak in NASCAR? Truex's dates back to 2007, which means it always was longer than Junior's, but now? Now the impending free agent has nowhere else to hide. Last week: 9.
8. Clint Bowyer: Rawhide has been quietly putting together some quality races over the last few weeks. He's in ninth place, with a bit of distance between himself and Brad Keselowski in 10th. He'll need to win a race to make things easier; it's about to get very crowded at the low end of the Chase picture. Last week: 12.
9. Kasey Kahne. Another rough go for Kahne, who seems back to his low-finishing (or is it high-finishing? how about bad-finishing) ways. With the logjam of one-win cats in the teens, standings-wise, Kahne will need another victory to distinguish himself. Good thing he's won at Sonoma before. Last week: 6.
10. Denny Hamlin: Another rough afternoon for Denny, but oh, that was a fiendish fire he suffered. All three Joe Gibbs Racing cars flamed out, literally or metaphorically, in Michigan. Is it time to panic at Gibbs? Probably not, but time to be a tiny bit concerned, definitely. Last week: 4.
11. Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose is one of those guys who always seems right on the very edge of breaking through big, and you wonder exactly how much of that is talent and how much is based on the cars he's driving. Of course, he keeps running like he has lately and he'll have virtually his pick of teams when his contract's up. Last week: NR.
12. Jeff Gordon: Hey, look who's starting to put together some decent runs! Of course, Gordon is ranked 20th in the standings, so he's not exactly able to coast now. Can he make the wild card? Sure, but it'll take two wins in the last 11 races, minimum. That's a tall order. Last week: 12.
Dropping out of the rankings: Joey Logano, Kyle Busch. Tough week for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Lucky Dog: Juan Pablo Montoya. Dude finished 8th, matching his best run of the season. And in honor of that, we won't even mention the jet dryer. Whoops.
DNF: Kyle Busch. Three bad engines, three weeks in a row? Sounds like Kyle Busch has made an enemy somewhere. Could it be ... Junior? (Probably not. But that'd be a great story, wouldn't it?)
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